Surround Sound: Grand Seiko Presents “The Journey of Birch” By BCXSY
Grand Seiko welcomes attendees of Design Miami/ to meditate on this all-encompassing art installation inspired by the nature of time, travel, and the SLGH005 “White Birch.”
Miami Art and Design Week is like Mardi Gras, Watches & Wonders, and Paris Fashion Week all rolled into one. And for one blessed week out of the year, the jet-set take over the city for a heady mix of art and commerce and poolside performances. But between the crowds of gallerists and curators, sometimes participants need a place to forget about the goings-on and contemplate life, the universe, and everything in-between.
Luckily, this year, Grand Seiko is providing a respite from the art overload by partnering with the Amsterdam-based interdisciplinary design studio BCXSY to create an installation that celebrates the brand’s strong bond with nature. Called “The Journey of Birch,” the exhibit creates an environment influenced by Grand Seiko’s SLGH005 “White Birch” timepiece, winner of Best Men’s Watch prize at the 2021 edition of the Grand Prix d’Horlogerie de Genève.
For those who can’t make the trip to Miami, let Watchonista walk you through the experience.
The Grand Entrance
Grand Seiko’s watchmakers have traditionally immersed themselves in their surroundings as much as they do in their craft. As a result, the inspiration for the dial of the “White Birch” is the austere and elegant trees that thrive in the northern parts of Japan near the Grand Seiko Studio Shizukuishi, where this timepiece is made.
With only the slightest wrist movement, each watch transports the wearer. Likewise, BCXSY designers Boaz Cohen and Sayaka Yamamoto have transformed the Grand Seiko boutique and delivered a narrative characterized by personal experience, human interaction, and emotional awareness.
As you enter “The Journey of Birch,” you are presented with a space that is an abstract interpretation of a birch tree forest. Panoramic murals wrap you up in a calming indigo palette. These walls are woven with a metallic substrate that glitters when the light hits its surface. This juxtaposition creates a dreamlike ambiance that BCXSY describes as both familiar and surreal.
Art for the Ages
Grand Seiko’s “Nature of Time” philosophy incorporates the Japanese idea of time brought to life through the spirit of Takumi (craftsmanship). With this immersive space, BCXSY also opens a window on both the natural environment of Shizukuishi as well as the distinctively Japanese craftsmanship of Grand Seiko.
Interestingly, at the center of the room is a three-ring clock that spans from floor-to-ceiling of the installation. Each ring features a distinctly finished metal rod that recalls the shape of watch hands. These rods mark the hours, minutes, and seconds by tracing circles in the sand that surrounds the clock’s base.
Time vs Distance
The circular base of the clock is a powerful symbol and complemented by the deep blue walls that surround it, instilling an ancient feeling of protection. As the central mechanism carries out its repetitive tasks, the time-telling circles provide constant reassurance that a new day is always just around the corner.
Moreover, a circle is a traditional place where communities come together. Thus, surrounding the space are crate benches to provide seating. The designers opted to use converted crates for these benches to evoke a sense of travel, referencing the SLGH005’s journey from Japan to Miami and the time it took to craft each.
Lastly, these benches are equipped with headphones to amplify the sound of the clock hands as they pass through the sand.
This amalgamation of sight, touch, and sound allows visitors to contemplate nature and their relationship with time in the same way that the Grand Seiko SLGH005 “White Birch” recalls the stately birch tree with its graceful hands and grooved markers. Meanwhile, its Zaratsu polished, distortion-free mirror finish alternates with a hairline finish to lend the case the ethereal glow of light passing through the forest.
I think it’s safe to say that the experience of “The Journey of Birch” is something to carry with you as you return to the madness of art fairs and press events.
For more information on the SLGH005 “White Birch,” visit the Grand Seiko website.
(All images © Grand Seiko)